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Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity In the Elderly U.S. Population

  • David M. Cutler
  • Kaushik Ghosh
  • Mary Beth Landrum

The question of whether morbidity is being compressed into the period just before death has been at the center of health debates in the United States for some time. Compression of morbidity would lead to longer life but less rapid medical spending increases than if life extension were accompanied by expanding morbidity. Using nearly 20 years of data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we examine how health is changing by time period until death. We show that functional measures of health are improving, and more so the farther away from death the person is surveyed. Disease rates are relatively constant at all times until death. On net, there is strong evidence for compression of morbidity based on measured disability, but less clear evidence based on disease-free survival.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19268.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity in the Elderly U.S. Population , David M. Cutler, Kaushik Ghosh, Mary Beth Landrum. in Discoveries in the Economics of Aging , Wise. 2014
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19268
Note: AG HC HE
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  1. Vicki Freedman & Brenda Spillman & Patti Andreski & Jennifer Cornman & Eileen Crimmins & Ellen Kramarow & James Lubitz & Linda Martin & Sharon Merkin & Robert Schoeni & Teresa Seeman & Timothy Waidman, 2013. "Trends in Late-Life Activity Limitations in the United States: An Update From Five National Surveys," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 661-671, April.
  2. Eileen Crimmins & Mark Hayward & Aaron Hagedorn & Yasuhiko Saito & Nicolas Brouard, 2009. "Change in disability-free life expectancy for Americans 70 years old and older," Demography, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 627-646, August.
  3. Lamb, Vicki L., 1996. "A cross-national study of quality of life factors associated with patterns of elderly disablement," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 363-377, February.
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